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Curt Welch

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Curtis Benton Welch

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 10", Weight 175 lb.

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[edit] Biographical Information

"Curt Welch, the center fielder of the St. Louis Browns . . . was by long odds the greatest fielder of his day. . . It was said that he could tell by the sound of the crack of the bat just how far the ball was going to go. . ." - from The National Game
"Curt Welch's '$15,000 slide' is the most famous play of 19th century baseball." - Bill James

Curt Welch, considered the top centerfielder of his day, was also an above-average hitter who stole a lot of bases. He played ten years in the majors, and some of his teams were quite noteworthy.

Welch was considered a tough and aggressive guy, and one source calls him "the toughest man on the St. Louis Browns".

Curtis welch book copy.jpg

He was working as a potter when one day he came to the train station to see the local amateur team off on a road trip. The catcher had an injured hand, and somebody suggested the team take Welch along. He did well, and his career took off with a couple amateur teams.

He then signed with Toledo to start his major league career, and made his debut with a noteworthy team that featured perhaps the first black players, Fleet Walker and Welday Walker. Welch was said to be good friends on the team with Tony Mullane and Sam Barkley, the two best players on the team. Welch was the regular centerfielder but also played a couple games at catcher.

After the 1884 season he was purchased (along with Barkley) by Chris Von der Ahe's famous St. Louis Browns, where he spent 1885 to 1887. The Browns won the pennant all three years.

In the 1886 post-season play, Welch stole home on a high pitch that may have been a pitch-out, one that King Kelly juggled. It came to be known as the "$15,000 slide" because his steal constituted the winning run and $15,000 was the amount that the winning players were supposed to share. On June 16, 1887, he was at the center of a huge brawl in a game against the Baltimore Orioles, when he bowled over second baseman Bill Greenwood in the 9th inning with the score tied at 8. Thousands of fans ran on to the field calling for Welch's arrest - or worse, and police had to intervene to break up the riot. The game was called, and Welch was whisked away from the ballpark while Baltimore, MD native Dave Foutz, his teammate, talked to the crowd to calm them down. However, when Welch got to the train station to escape town, another mob had gathered, and he had to stay with his teammates at the team hotel, with more fans gathered around with hostile intentions. A court hearing was held the next day, where some Orioles fans asked for charges to be laid, but Greenwood pleaded in his favor, saying the play was nothing out of the ordinary for a baseball game. Welch was released but kept out of that day's game in order to appease tensions.

After 1887 he was traded to the Philadelphia Athletics, where, it is said, he played for the highest salary ever commanded by an outfielder, and also served as team captain.

After his major league days he played for some minor league clubs but his health was failing (said to be consumption), and he died in 1896.

Main sources: Curt Welch and The Cardinals Encyclopedia.

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • AA Doubles Leader (1889)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 1 (1887)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 5 (1886 & 1888-1891)
  • 50 Stolen Bases: 6 (1886-1891)

[edit] Further Reading

  • Marty Payne: "Beer Tanks and Barbed Wire: Bill Barnie and Baltimore", in The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 42, Number 1 (Spring 2013), pp. 25-29.

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